The science is fairly clear on this one: A new study – issued by the University of Bath’s School of Management – has concluded that on average, Brexit voters have ‘lower cognitive abilities’ than those who supported the Remain campaign during the 2016 referendum.
Remain voters ‘mostly have higher cognitive abilities’ than Brexit voters
The controversial research has already sparked a wave of debate across the country, as voters in both camps attempt to reconcile with the findings. Skills such as verbal fluency, fluid reasoning, and strength of memory showed a correlation on each side.
The results reveal that, from the 6,000 people surveyed with the lowest cognitive ability, only 40% voted Remain. On the flipside, 73% of the cohort with the highest cognitive ability backed Remain. Chris Dawson, the lead author of this study, has since summarised his research.
“This study adds to existing academic evidence showing that low cognitive ability makes people more susceptible to misinformation and disinformation.”
“Evidence has been put forward that information proliferated on social media platforms and provided to the public in the months leading up to the referendum was contradictory, false and often fraudulent, especially regarding the Brexit campaign.”| Chris Dawson
Scale of disinformation played a part in referendum result, says UoB research
The role of disinformation in the UK’s decision to quit the EU back in 2016 has been comprehensively highlighted by Dawson and his colleagues. They reckon that many Leave voters ‘now regret their choice’, after making ‘decision errors’ seven years ago.
Paul Baker, a co-author on the paper, believes that the inability to detect false narratives amongst those with reduced cognitive powers ‘is undermining democracy’, and fears it will continue to present as a factor in many more elections to come.
“Low cognitive ability leads decision errors and many Leave voters now say they regret their choice. The study highlights how people’s inability to counter disinformation undermines the democratic process and can be used to influence democratic outcomes.” | Paul Baker